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Council approves $21.5M Villeneuve Road borrowing bylaw

St. Albert city council has approved a $21.5 million borrowing bylaw to fund the next two phases of work planned for Villeneuve Road, although additional funding will be needed after 2025 to complete the project.
Council has approved a $21.5 million borrowing bylaw to complete two phases of construction on Villeneuve Road. FILE/Photo

St. Albert city council has approved a $21.5 million borrowing bylaw to fund the next two phases of work on Villeneuve Road, although additional funding will be needed after 2025 to fully complete the project.

The borrowing bylaw, which passed second and third reading on April 18, allows the city to spend $17 million on installing sidewalks, multi-use trails, streetlights, and improved drainage along the two lane roadway between St. Albert Trail and Hogan Road. A roundabout will also be built at the Villeneuve Road and Hogan Road intersection. 

The remaining $4.5 million included in the borrowing amount is considered contingency funding, which will only be borrowed and used if costs are higher than planned. The city's total new long-term debt balance stands at about $112.7 million.

Coun. Shelley Biermanski and Coun. Mike Killick voted against the bylaw at each reading. Killick also put forward a postpone motion during the April 18 council meeting to re-evaluate the project again, despite it already having an approved charter; however, the motion failed with Killick, Biermanski, and Coun. Sheena Hughes in favour.

“I didn't see it as a necessity at this time,” Biermanski said. “It's sort of the road to nowhere right now.”

“To take on guaranteed debt for something that hasn't been determined an absolute priority I don't feel comfortable voting for at this time,” she said during debate.

Mayor Cathy Heron said she knows the city is taking on “a lot” of debt with upcoming projects; however, she felt Villeneuve Road is an important project to complete right now. 

“This is a good project for the city of St. Albert, and I know we have a lot of debt to deal with coming up — we're still nowhere near as bad as many municipalities across Alberta when it comes to our debt level and debt per capita — so honestly I think we should just get this borrowing bylaw put in place and move on,” Heron said.

A council backgrounder included in the April 18 meeting agenda says the project would not be a priority if not for the quick development of Jensen Lakes and continued growth of North Ridge, which now includes homes north of Villeneuve Road.

“Both developments (have) a direct impact on the need to accommodate connectivity with sidewalk (and) trails and require intersection access improvements to accommodate vehicle access,” city financial operations manager Brenda Barclay wrote in the backgrounder.

“This development has advanced the priority for completion of Villeneuve Road.”

As completing the improvements directly benefits developers looking to expand neighbourhoods, the project's costs are expected to be 65 per cent recoverable through off-site levies. The city will be responsible for the remaining percentage of the 20-year debenture.

Coun. Wes Brodhead, who voted in favour of the borrowing bylaw, and said he felt it was best to get the project over with now as more roadwork is expected to be completed in the area in the coming years, such as the development of Fowler Way.

“From my perspective we need to just do this,” he said. “I know there has been some thought about maybe changing the project charter and delaying it (but) ... it needs to be an urban road with curb and gutter, sidewalks, to allow people who are living there to actually be able to walk to and from places (and be) a walkable community.”

“We've had significant disruptions on St. Albert Trail north and we'll have another year of that and now Villeneuve Road again, so let's just get it over with and done and then we'll carry on.”

Both project phases the borrowing bylaw will fund are expected to be completed before 2026. The final phase, which covers the stretch of Villeneuve Road between Hogan Road and Ray Gibbon Drive, can't be designed and planned until council approves a land-use concept for the city's Badger Lands.

The Badger Lands, used as a snow and street-sweeping dumping area, was once planned to be the site of the city's solar farm, but no new plan for how to use the plot has been determined since council scrapped the solar farm over seven months ago.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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